The matchup we all have been waiting for has finally arrived. Undefeated Ohio State will travel to undefeated Penn State on Saturday night as the two juggernauts square off for Big Ten supremacy. Not only will this game have Big Ten stipulations on the line, but the winner will have the inside track to the College Football Playoff.
In case you want to reference the Big Ten Power Rankings from last week.
14. Rutgers (1-3)
Lost to Buffalo, 42-13
“Does the Big Ten regret accepting Rutgers into the conference? My column.”
Although the above headline is a joke, I’m not kidding with that sentiment. Getting their doors blown off by Kansas was one thing, but losing to Buffalo at home is embarrassing. It’s not that Rutgers lost to Buffalo, who happens to be 4-0 on the year. It’s that Rutgers got blown out to a team from the MAC. That should not happen especially when you’re in the Big Ten. The Rutgers defense, which was supposed to be the team’s strength, has given up a staggering 149 points in three straight losses. If the Scarlett Knights suffer another blowout loss, Chris Ash may not have a job by the end of the year. Rutgers plays Indiana at home on Saturday.
13. Nebraska (0-3)
Lost to Michigan, 56-10
No one expected miracles from Scott Frost, but I doubt anyone expected him to be 0-3 to start his tenure. Nebraska ran into a buzzsaw in the Big House as Michigan pounced on the Cornhuskers early on their way to a 56-10 beatdown. With a record of 0-3, Nebraska is off to their worst start since 1945, and they have been outscored 113-57. Nebraska will look to win their first game of the year on Saturday when they travel to Purdue.
12. Purdue (1-3)
Beat Boston College, 30-13
Now, this is the Purdue team that everyone expected to see at the start of the year. David Blough’s 3 TD passes led the way as the Boilermakers picked up their first win of the season over Boston College, 30-13. Purdue could very well be 4-0 because they have had chances to win in each of their first three games. The Boilermakers have lost by a combined 8 points in three games. Purdue will look to make it two straight as they travel to Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.
11. Northwestern (1-2)
After a bye week, Northwestern has to face the red-hot Michigan Wolverines in Evanston on Saturday afternoon. If Northwestern wants to stay in this game, their offense can’t disappear in the second half like it has the past three games.
10. Illinois (2-2)
Lost to Penn State, 63-24
The good news: Illinois was beating Penn State 24-21 early in the third quarter.
The bad news: Penn State started trying again and scored 42 unanswered points to win the game, 63-24.
Truthfully, the positives outweigh the negatives for me. Did Illinois lose by 39? Yes, but they were winning the game in the third quarter and played a great first half. It’s not like they were blown out by a non-Power 5 School (CC: Rutgers). It was Penn State, who has a chance to make the College Football Playoff. It’s clear that Lovie Smith has some talent at the running back position with Reggie Corbin and Mike Epstein, who combined for 160 yards rushing. Plus, the Illini have been playing with their backup quarterback so let’s see what starter AJ Bush can do when he returns. Illinois has a bye week.
9. Minnesota (3-1)
Lost to Maryland, 42-13
After falling behind in the first half 21-3, Minnesota had no chance for a comeback. Turnovers will kill your ability to win games, and with three turnovers on the day including 2 INTs thrown by Zack Annexstad, that’s pretty much a death wish. It wasn’t a great day for the Minnesota defense as they gave up 432 yards of total offense to the Terps. I don’t care who you are; if you can’t stop the run, you’re not going to win many games. Minnesota has a bye week.
8. Maryland (3-1)
Beat Minnesota, 42-13
Remember when Maryland was blown out by Temple two weeks ago? They seemed to take out their frustration on Minnesota as the Terps dominated the Golden Gophers from start to finish on their way to a 42-13 victory. Maryland found their groove again in the running game as the Terps rushed for 315 yards and 4 TDs. I still have question marks about Kasim Hill’s ability to throw the ball, but if the Terps have success on the ground, they will win games. Maryland has a bye week.
7. Indiana (3-1)
Lost to Michigan State, 35-21
With a chance for a statement win, Indiana could not overcome Michigan State’s fast start on their way to a 35-21 defeat. Although the running game was excellent the previous three games, Indiana was not able to control the line of scrimmage as Sparty held Stevie Scott and the Hoosiers to 29 rushing yards. Indiana travels to Rutgers this Saturday.
6. Michigan State (2-1)
Beat Indiana, 35-21
Just like Wisconsin, Michigan State was looking to rebound after a brutal loss, which is exactly what happened as they defeated an undefeated Indiana team, 35-21. Quarterback Brian Lewerke’s two first-half touchdowns and Shakur Brown’s interception for a touchdown gave Sparty a 21-7 lead in the first half, which was too big of a deficit for Indiana. After Ohio State /Penn State this weekend, the next biggest game in the battle for the Big 10 will be October 13 as Sparty travels to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions. Michigan State plays Central Michigan on Saturday.
5. Iowa (3-1)
Lost to Wisconsin, 28-17
Iowa had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but the Hawkeyes were outscored 14-0 in the 4th quarter on their way to defeat 28-17. Not only would this win be a resume booster, but it would’ve given Iowa the ability to control their own destiny in the Big Ten West. With the loss to Wisconsin, Iowa will have to win out and hope Wisconsin loses two conference games, which is very unlikely, in order to play in the Big 10 title game. Iowa has a bye week.
4. Wisconsin (3-1)
Beat Iowa, 28-17
In a game where many believed the running game would be the focal point, it was quarterback Alex Hornibrook who was the star of the game in Wisconsin’s hard-fought come-from-behind win over Iowa in Kinnick Stadium. Many experts and writers (including myself) believed Hornibrook would need to take the next step as a passer to lead the Badgers to new heights. I’d say 205 yards and 3 TDs in a huge road test is taking the next step. This was a quality bounce-back win for the Badgers. Wisconsin has a bye week.
3. Michigan (3-1)
Beat Nebraska, 56-10
Remember when Michigan looked lost on offense in their loss to Notre Dame? That seems like it happened a lifetime ago as the Wolverines dominated the visiting Nebraska Cornhuskers, 56-10. The stats won’t show it (120 yards and 1 TD), but quarterback Shea Patterson looks more comfortable and poised in Jim Harbaugh’s offense. The defense is one of the best in the country, which should come as a surprise to no one. Michigan is on a roll and looks like it can’t be stopped. Michigan travels to Northwestern on Saturday.
2. Penn State (4-0)
Beat Illinois, 63-24
Illinois was on the verge of an upset. Illinois had the lead early in the third quarter with a score of 24-21. Penn State not only erased the thought of an upset, but destroyed it with a monstrous second half in which they scored 42 unanswered points to win 63-24. Running back Miles Sanders is making it a little easier for fans to forget about Saquon Barkley as Sanders rushed for 200 yards and 3 TDs. The biggest game of the Big Ten season (so far) takes place on Saturday night as Ohio State comes to Happy Valley to take on the Nittany Lions.
1. Ohio State (4-0)
Beat Tulane, 49-6
Urban Meyer is back as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Frankly, they didn’t need him to blow out Tulane. For me, the Heisman favorite is Dwayne Haskins. The quarterback was as close to perfect as you can get. Haskins threw for 304 yards and and 5 TDs in the first half alone before sitting on the bench for the second half. Although Haskins is 4th in the Heisman watch, Haskins will have a huge opportunity this weekend to improve his stock if he goes into Happy Valley and beats Penn State. Ohio State plays Penn State on Saturday night.